Vanessa Simmering

Position title: Assistant Professor


Phone: (608) 890-2598

522 Psychology

Research Area(s)
Cognitive and Cognitive Neuroscience

Lab Website
Simmering Lab

Research Interest
My research investigates the development of perception, action, and cognition, with an emphasis on visuo-spatial cognition. In particular, I study how young children (ages 3-7 years) learn and remember objects’ properties and locations in space. In my research, I use dynamic neural field models to understand how brain development might relate to the behavioral development I study in the lab.

Currently, I have two primary lines of research. First, I am investigating how children learn to coordinate among multiple spatial reference frames, that is, how they keep track of objects’ locations across movements of their own bodies and other objects in the environment. This work builds on my previous research on how children perceive and remember locations within object-centered reference frames. We are currently testing how other developing skills, like language, can support this coordination. Second, I am studying how memory for object features is changing during early development, specifically the source of changes in the number of items that children can remember, the precision of their memory representations, and how multiple features are combined. I am particularly interested in how developmental changes in visual and spatial cognition support each other during early childhood, and the implications of these developmental patterns for our understanding of the role of experience in cognitive development.

Representative Publications
Simmering, V.R. & Perone, S. (2013). Working memory capacity as a dynamic process. Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, 3:567, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00567

Simmering, V.R. & Patterson, R. (2012). Models provide specificity: Testing a proposed mechanism of visual working memory capacity development. Cognitive Development, 27, 419-439.

Perone, S., Simmering, V.R., & Spencer, J.P. (2011). Stronger neural dynamics capture changes in infants’ visual working memory capacity over development. Developmental Science, 14, 1379-1392.

Simmering, V.R., Triesch, J., Deák, G.O., & Spencer, J.P. (2010). A dialogue on the role of computational modeling in developmental science. Child Development Perspectives, 4, 152-158.

Simmering, V.R., Schutte, A.R., & Spencer, J.P. (2008). Generalizing the dynamic field theory of spatial cognition across real and developmental time scales. In S. Becker (Ed.) Computational Cognitive Neuroscience [special issue]. Brain Research, 1202, 68-86.